A History of Band Orchestration

The wind band has had a long history.  In some regards, it’s history is longer than that of the orchestra.

Medieval and Renaissance

The earliest music for band probably dates to sometime in the Medieval period.  Wind instruments were used for outdoor music as they were louder than strings and more portable than the organ.

This scenario stood throughout the Renaissance era.  Instrument development slowly became more advanced and new instruments were developed.  Many of the instruments developed in the Renaissance are the fore bearers of the instruments in the modern wind band (such as trombones, bassoons, and oboes). Continue reading “A History of Band Orchestration”

What is a Band?

Before beginning the course, we must define what a band is.

For the purposes of this course, a band is an ensemble made up of wind instruments and percussion.

The standard idea we think of when we envision a band is the concert band.  A group of 30-70 players (or more) seated on a concert stage.

But… Continue reading “What is a Band?”

1. Introduction

The wind band is perhaps the most misunderstood of the major musical ensembles.  All areas of musical composition, harmony, counterpoint, rhythm, etc., apply equally to the orchestra and the wind band save one – orchestration.  Even the name implies that it is different.  The word derives from composing for orchestra.

However, a band is different from an orchestra.

Most composers do not realize that if they want to write music for a large orchestra, performance opportunities are limited.  Even if an orchestra performs your piece, the chance of someone else doing a repeat performance is virtually non-existent. However, bands are different.  Bands at both the secondary school and college level, and even the few professional bands that exist, beg for more music.  A college-level band is almost assured of doing several new works every year.  Many of the works hailed as brilliant in the band world, wouldn’t pass muster in the orchestral world.

There’s a reason bands are starving for good music.  Composers have often thought of it as a lesser medium than the orchestra, but a medium is only as good as the talent working with it.  Great art can come from anywhere.  True band masterpieces are waiting to be written.

Over the span of this course, I hope to present the first modern text on orchestrating for wind band – bandestration.  Over the past few years, I have built up a large encyclopædia of instrumentation for wind instruments, but I have yet to tackle the more complex art of orchestrating.

Next: What is a Band?